Interstellar Travel

In science fiction dealing with travel between the stars, the author needs to decide how to traverse such vast distances.  I have the same issue, as my books deal with a colony about 30 light years away.  So, how can we travel that far?  There are several choices.

Faster Than Light Travel (FTL)

This is a pretty standard way of traveling in science fiction.  You go from one point to another in a relatively short amount of time, but it requires breaking that speed limit of 299,792,458 metres per second.  Well, the two most popular ways are warping the space-time continuum and wormholes/hyperspace.  The first was used in Star Trek originally, though it turns out it may actually be possible.  There’s a hypothesis that uses sound physics and involves forming a bubble of normal space around a starship and warping the space in front of and behind the ship to allow the space to travel at speeds greater than the speed of light.   Unfortunately, as far as we know, it would require incredible amounts of energy.  Fortunately, the source is likely to be matter-antimatter interactions.  Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to store antimatter for a significant length of time.   Unfortunately, no one knows exactly how to do it yet. It’s just hypothetical.  The second is wormholes or hyperspace.  Two points in space are linked together by a kind of shortcut or tunnel.  How this can be done is anyone’s guess, as there are several ideas.  This method can be faster than warp, and is used in many science fiction movies, TV series, and novels.

Generation Ships

These ships travel slower than the speed of light, but if they have significant speed, they may be able to reach a nearby star within a hundred years or so.  It would take several generations to reach its destination.  There’s a possibility of relativistic effects, such as time dilation, but maybe not that significant.  However, if the speeds approach the speed of light, time dilation is great.  This is what happened with the ship in Planet of the Apes, though it wasn’t a generation ship.  These ships would be huge.  They’d have to support a large number of people and include ways of producing food and giving all of the people a way of life.  The ship is their home.  NASA is actually sponsoring the 100 Year Starship project.  Propulsion systems could involve fusion, matter-antimatter, ion propulsion, or even solar sail.

Sleeper Ships

These may have several names, but I like this name.  In these ships, people are put into cryogenic stasis or some other method involving slowing down their life processes so that when they wake up, they’re at their destination.  We don’t have the technology to revive these people yet, but it’s being worked on.  This has the advantage of allowing the people who start the journey to arrive at the same physical age.  During their time in stasis, time shouldn’t be a problem, as they’ll probably wake up as if they’d had an incredibly deep dreamless sleep.  That is, I hope they don’t experience the passage of time.  They may go crazy. Propulsion systems can be similar to the generation ships.

In my writing, I’m doing a combination of a couple of these systems.  I’ve got a rough design for my interstellar ships, which I’ll reveal as I write Journey to Ariadne.

What’s your favourite kind of space travel? Leave a comment with your choice.